The U.S. Navy awarded Demonstration of Existing Technologies (DET) contracts Oct. 25, 2018, valued at approximately $36 million each to L3 Technologies Communications Systems West and Northrop Grumman Corp. Mission Systems in support of the Next Generation Jammer Low Band (NGJ-LB) capability.
The Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA) Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234) headquartered here manages the NGJ-LB program.
NGJ-LB is an external jamming pod that is part of a larger NGJ weapon system that will augment and, ultimately, replace the aging ALQ-99 Tactical Jamming System currently in use on EA-18G Growler aircraft.
Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Autumn Metzger and Aviation Electronics Technician 3rd Class Mark Homer wipe down an ALQ 99 jamming pod.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Scott Pittman)
“NGJ-LB is a critical piece of the overall NGJ system in that it focuses on the denial, degradation, deception, and disruption of our adversaries’ abilities to gain an advantage in that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Capt. Michael Orr, PMA-234 program manager. “It delivers to the warfighter significant improvements in power, advanced jamming techniques, and jamming effectiveness over the legacy ALQ-99 system.”
Each DET contract has a 20-month period of performance, during which the NGJ-LB team will assess the technological maturity of the industry partners’ existing technologies in order to inform future NGJ-LB capability development, as well as define the NGJ-LB acquisition strategy.
PMA-234 is responsible for acquiring, delivering and sustaining AEA systems and EA-6B Prowler aircraft, providing combatant commanders with capabilities that enable mission success.
India and China are the world’s two most populous countries.
But they’re not the best of friends, and they’ve had years of military tension, including a brief war in 1962. Even today, there’s an off chance that tensions over Bhutan could spark another one.
In the 1962 war, air power didn’t play much of a role. Today, though, both sides have modern capable air forces, and they could go head-to-head.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, by 2020, the Indian air force will operate a mix of Su-30MKI Flankers, Dassault Rafales, Mirage 2000s, MiG-29 Fulcrums, modernized MiG-21s, and the indigenous Tejas fighter. Older planes in service would include the Jaguar ground attack plane and possibly MiG-27s. The backbone of this force would be as many as 280 of the Flankers.
GlobalSecurity.org notes that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, like the Indian Air Force, relies heavily on Flankers — though these are primarily the J-11, China’s copy of the Su-27. By 2020, China could have as many as 312 of the baseline J-11s, plus about 24 Su-35S Flankers, roughly 65 Su-30MKK Flankers, and 75 J-11B Flankers. China also would be able to add a large number of J-10 Firebird multi-role fighters, older J-7 Fishbed and J-8 Finback fighters, and JH-7 Flounder fighter-bombers.
China technically has a larger force. However, with the tensions in the South China Sea, as well as a maritime territorial dispute with Japan over the Senkaku Islands, the Chinese cannot focus all of their force on India, at the risk of facing a conflict on three fronts.
FlightGlobal.com notes that the People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force has roughly 190 fighters and fighter-bombers on hand, but over 100 of them are older J-7, J-8, and Q-5 aircraft that would be overmatched by Japan.
India faces a somewhat similar division problem due to Pakistan’s relatively close military relationship with China, but that is arguably more of an extension of a single front. Most of Pakistan’s combat aircraft are also older designs like the Mirage III, Mirage 5, and J-7.
This becomes the biggest factor in any Sino-Indian air war. China could theoretically crush the Indian Air Force by focusing all its fighting power on the task.
The problem China faces is that such a focus would prove a Phyrric victory, as its claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea could become highly vulnerable. But if China sends in only part of its force, it risks seeing the People’s Liberation Army Air Force be defeated in detail.
India, on the other hand, faces no such problems. As such, it has a good chance to win an air war with China, simply because the Indians don’t face a potential second front.
The U.S. and Russian space agencies have announced a new collaboration to build a space station orbiting the moon, a rare glimpse of bilateral cooperation amid bitter tension between Washington and Moscow.
NASA and Roscosmos said in statements released on September 27 that the two entities had signed an agreement to work together on a project that will eventually serve as a “gateway to deep space and the lunar surface.”
NASA has dubbed the long-term project the Deep Space Gateway, a multistage effort to explore, and eventually send humans, farther into the solar system.
The two countries’ space agencies will cooperate to build the systems needed for both the lunar-orbiting station and a base on the moon’s surface, Roscosmos said.
With tension at levels not seen since the Cold War, space exploration is one of the only areas in which the United States and Russia continue to cooperate.
Russia rockets and capsules bring astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station, and Russian cosmonauts and U.S. astronauts work alongside one another on the orbiting station.
President Donald Trump announced an unprecedented review of a former Army Green Beret, who had been charged with murder for the 2010 killing of a suspected Taliban bomb-maker.
“He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a terrorist bomb maker while overseas,” the president said in a tweet Dec. 16, 2018.
The charges against Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn mark the latest step in a 9-year probe aimed at resolving whether the decorated former Green Beret is a war hero, as many believe — or a war criminal. The Army opened its latest investigation in December 2016, after Golsteyn admitted in an interview with Fox News to killing the suspected terrorist while his unit was deployed in Afghanistan.
The interview, which took place in October 2016, was part of a pre-election Fox News special discussing rules of engagement, which had become more restrictive during the Obama administration. In it, Golsteyn said military rules required him to release the suspect.
Golsteyn appears to be standing by his 2016 admission that he killed the Afghan, but disputes that he killed the man in cold blood. Instead, he claims that he and another soldier set out after the suspect soon his release, believing he still posed an imminent threat to US troops.
During the Fox News interview, Golsteyn described the circumstances of the suspected Taliban militant’s detainment.
The Afghan was suspected of involvement in the killing of two Marines, who died in an explosion. Golsteyn said in the interview that Afghan tribal leaders helped identify the suspect. US forces detained the man, but because of strict rules of engagement they had to release him.
In the interview, Golsteyn said he was concerned that the Afghans who aided US forces would be targeted by the suspected bomb maker.
“It is an inevitable outcome that people who are cooperating with coalition forces, when identified, will suffer some terrible torture or be killed,” Golsteyn said.
How We Fight: A Fox News Special Report w/ Bret Baier
Golsteyn received a Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award for valor in combat, for actions during his deployment in Afghanistan. But after he detailed the incident in an interview with the CIA, the Army opened an investigation and stripped his award. He was also removed from the Special Forces.
According to Army documents obtained by the Washington Post, Golsteyn reportedly told the CIA that he and another soldier escorted the suspect back to his home but rather than releasing him, they assassinated the unarmed Afghan man. The Army documents also allege that Golsteyn and two other soldiers later burned the body in a trash pit at their base compound.
But the same Army documents show that members of his unit expressed doubt that the officer would kill an unarmed suspect, and investigators found no evidence of a corpse in several burn pits, according to the Post.
The Army’s investigators did not have enough evidence to press charges.
Now prosecutors may be able to use Golsteyn’s on-air confession to bolster their case. Otherwise, Golsteyn’s attorney Phil Stackhouse says there is nothing new.
“They have insinuated to me that they have new evidence,” Stackhouse told Fox News. “I don’t believe there is any new evidence at all.”
Golsteyn says the charges are based on a ‘complete lie’
“They quoted me as saying that me and someone else with me took a detainee to his home and assassinated him. The problem is I never said that,” Golsteyn told NBC News on Dec. 20, 2018. “It was a complete lie.”
NBC News reported Golsteyn stands by what he told Fox News in 2016, but maintains that he did not violate military law. Stackhouse made an appearance on Fox and Friends Dec. 16, 2018, to support his client. In the interview, Stackhouse said that shortly after releasing the Afghan man, Golsteyn and another Special Forces soldier set out after him, maintaining that the man was planning to continue making bombs for the Taliban and posed an imminent threat to US forces.
Will Trump’s tweet sink the Army’s case?
Trump’s decision to tweet his support for the former Green Beret is an unprecedented move that may prove beneficial to Golsteyn’s defense.
The president lauded Golsteyn as a “US Military hero,” which could count as a violation of unlawful command influence — a tenet of the military justice system that prohibits leaders from influencing the outcome of a court-martial. But it is typically flagged when leaders prevent a defendant’s access to due process, and does not necessarily apply in this case, experts told Task Purpose.
It is unclear whether Trump’s tweet means he intends to ever grant Golsteyn a pardon, and the president can still do so at any point.
As far as the Army’s treatment of Golsteyn, Stackhouse told Fox News, “I think he’s been betrayed.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The US Navy challenged China’s excessive claims to the South China Sea on Nov. 26, 2018, by sending a warship past a Chinese military outpost in the disputed waterway.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville “sailed near the Paracel Islands to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” US Navy Cmdr. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman for US Pacific Fleet, told CNN Nov. 29, 2018, in a statement that was also provided to Business Insider.
A Chinese vessel reportedly shadowed the US Navy warship during the operation.
“US Forces operate in the Indo-Pacific region on a daily basis, including the South China Sea,” Christensen added. “All operations are designed in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”
“FONOPs challenge excessive maritime claims and demonstrate our commitment to uphold the rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law.”
The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville.
Beijing responded with a formal diplomatic protest, CNN reported, citing multiple US officials.
China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, and while those claims were discredited by an international arbitration tribunal two years ago, the Chinese military has continued to bolster its presence in the region through the deployment of jamming technology, anti-ship missiles, and surface-to-air missiles.
Two days after the latest FONOP, the US Navy aggravated China again by sending a destroyer and an oiler through the Taiwan Strait. The destroyer USS Stockdale and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos pushed through the closely-watched strait Nov. 28, 2018, drawing some criticism from Beijing.
“We urge the United States to … cautiously and appropriately handle the Taiwan issue and avoid damaging the peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait and China-US relations,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said Nov. 29, 2018.
“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Pacific Fleet told Business Insider Nov. 28, 2018.
The US military has been increasingly active, both at sea and in the air, in areas China considers key national interests, as tensions between Washington and Beijing have been rising over the past year.
In addition to US Navy FONOPs, the US Air Force has regularly sent B-52 bombers into the South China Sea, occasionally drawing Beijing’s ire.
While most incidents are uneventful, the US and Chinese navies had a close call in late September, when a Chinese warship challenged a US Navy destroyer, forcing it off course through aggressive maneuvers that US officials called dangerous and unprofessional.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It comes after the people of Hawaii received a false alarm on Jan. 13, warning of an inbound ballistic missile. It was apparently caused by an employee at Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency pushing the “wrong button” by accident.
The US and Japan have been conducting a tireless, around-the-clock search for a missing F-35 for a week, but so far, they have yet to recover the downed fighter or its pilot. A life is on the line, and the “secrets” of the most expensive weapon in the world are lost somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter flown by 41-year-old Maj. Akinori Hosomi disappeared from radar on April 9, 2019. No distress signal was sent out as the aircraft vanished roughly 85 miles east of Misawa Air Base.
The disappearance is the first crash of the F-35A and the first time a third-party user has lost an F-35, making this a uniquely troubling situation for everyone involved. (A US Marine Corps F-35B crashed in South Carolina in September 2018; the pilot was able to eject safely).
Japan determined that the aircraft most likely crashed after pieces of the missing fifth-generation stealth fighter were discovered at sea last week. The US and Japan have since been searching non-stop for the plane believed to be lying vulnerable on the ocean floor at a depth of 5,000 feet.
A US Indo-Pacific Command spokeswoman told Business Insider that finding the pilot remains the priority.
A Pentagon spokesman previously told BI that the US “stands ready to support the partner nation in recovery” in the event that a fighter goes missing. He pointed to the spat with Turkey to emphasize how serious the US is about ensuring that the advanced technology doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.
A United States Air Force F-35A Lightning II.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
Japan, which has grounded the rest of its F-35s, recognizes the seriousness of the situation as well.
“The F-35A is an airplane that contains a significant amount of secrets that need to be protected,” Japan’s defense minister, Takeshi Iwaya, told reporters, according to The Japan Times.
While there are concerns that a third country, namely Russia or China, might attempt to find and grab the missing fighter, the Japanese defense ministry has not detected any unusual activity around the crash site.
Were Russia or China to recover the downed F-35, it could be a major intelligence windfall, especially given the fact that both countries have their own fifth-generation fighter programs dedicated to rivaling the US fighter.
The plane is suspected to have crashed within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which would legally limit third party activity, but as Tom Moore, a former senior professional staff member with the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted recently, “There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35.”
The US dispatched the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem, P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft, and a U-2 reconnaissance plane to assist Japanese submarine rescue ships, coast guard vessels, and rotary aircraft in their search for the missing fighter and its pilot.
In December 2018, the US searched the seas for the crew of a KC-130J that collided with a fighter jet. The search concluded after five days. The current search has been ongoing for a week. It is unclear if or at what point the US and Japan would call off the search for the Japanese pilot and his downed fighter.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We talk with the Marine and Creator of the MightyFIT Workout plan about Promotions, Happiness and Freedom Hair.
Most Marines can remember their best PFT score. A solid performance can earn you bragging rights, a line on the promotion list or maybe even signifies a personal goal (yeah, I still remember my first twenty straight pull ups, twenty years later). Yet, there is something much deeper in the those numbers…happiness.
You can argue with me all you want, yes Marines can be happy, but that doesn’t mean their life is going to be easy. At some point, Marines are guaranteed to be covered in mud, zombie tired and cleaning a piece of gear for the ten thousandth time. Despite what life may throw their way, either in training or war, Marines are still the most happy when they are fit and ready for a fight. And that means tough training, physical fitness, and confidence.
After my first deployment to Iraq, I was back at 29 Palms getting ready for a second, possibly more dangerous deployment. We trained every day and most weekends in a hot, nasty desert. That spring, I ran the fastest PFT of my life and I’ve never felt happier (17:54…just saying…). Despite the stress of the world around me, being in that kind of shape was one of the happiest points in my life. I was a trained, fit Marine and that feeling has stuck with me to this day.
Now, if you’re reading this, then you at least have some interest in the military and you don’t have to be a Marine to understand that feeling fit and healthy is a good thing. That being said, even those of us who a maxed out a PFT at some point still have trouble finding a workout plan to meet the chaotic, unexpected and sometimes even lonely challenges that come after we take off the uniform.
Ladies and gents, let me introduce to Marine Michael Gregory, the creator of the MightyFIT workout plan and owner of Composure Fitness, whose sales pitch is “wanna make gains and look great naked?”
Michael doesn’t need to sell himself, he resume does it for him. An economist by training who first put his analysis skills to work as a Marine intelligence officer, Michael is one of those guys who could fit right in on wall street but he’s also tough. Like really tough. One of his first assignments in the Marines was with the MACE, Martial Arts Center of Excellence, think Spartan training in modern times. So what does a badass Marine martial arts instructor with a ten pound brain decide to do after he leaves the Marine Corps?
He moves to Bali and begins his next chapter helping Marines and others find their peak physical performance and dare I say it…happiness.
So when it came time to develop a workout plan for We Are The Mighty, we asked Michael to do what he does best and the eight week plan is pretty amazing. I recently had the chance to catch up with Michael and his thoughts on fitness and happiness didn’t disappoint.
(Michael Gregory being promoted on Iwo Jima.)
Michael, it’s great to chat with you. Before we dive in, tell me, what’s the craziest thing that you did in the Marine Corps?
MG: I was promoted on Iwo Jima.
MG: Yeah it was cool. And not planned. My commander was like, “Hey there’s a C- 130 going to Iwo. Get on it, find whoever is the senior officer and have them promote you.”
Ok, that pretty badass, what drove you to the Marine Corps?
MG: Yeah. so I joined out of high school. I knew I wanted to be in the military. It was the height of the wars and everyone was going to the Middle East to fight. I didn’t even know Asia was a thing, but they sent me to Japan. I got to work with almost every Allied country in Asia and it was it was good for me because I was always the kind of Marine that was on my own little plan. I always had long hair.
Dude, your hair is pretty crazy now.
MG: It’s my freedom hair.
Freedom Hair. I love that.
MG: I haven’t had it cut since I got out. That’s my freedom.
What set you on the fitness path to where you are right now?
MG: [Fitness] was always something that I cared about. I studied economics in college and I had to work out to keep my sanity. But when I got in the Marine Corps I was lucky enough in one of the “in-between times” between schools. I got sent to the Martial Arts Instructor Course in Quantico.
The MACE is no joke. What was it like as a brand new a Second Lieutenant?
MG: It was actually like it was cool because it was my first experience working with enlisted Marines. But in the schoolhouse we’re all getting trained to be instructors. We were equals there. So we all got along and I learned a lot and I actually took a lot of that with me when I was with my unit and my first Marines. It was eye opening. And that was some of the best organized training I got.
So where did you get the fitness knowledge to build a plan like the MightyFIT?
MG: In Japan, I had a pretty good fitness routine going on. I was kind of training myself. And studying. I would print out fitness stuff and bring it into the vault because nobody would talk to me there. I read a lot about nutrition, the body and exercise programs.
And when did Bali come into the picture?
MG: After the Marines, I decided to take a break you know and figure out what I want to do with my life. My wife convinced me to move to Bali for six months to just decompress a little bit and figure out a plan. And you know, we’ve been there for two and a half years.
(Because when you’re a fitness guru in Bali, front flips in the rain are just a part of life.)
So you started training Athletes and even other Marines?
MG: It took some time and it was all based on the results. I have a guy that I work with who is a Captain. He was afraid that he couldn’t make gains and still perform on the PFT. We developed a plan for him. Now, he’s squatting and lifting more than he ever had in his life and he’s at a lower body fat percentage while still running a 295 PFT. It’s my clients that have helped me grow. The word of your former clients is the most important thing that I have as a fitness professional.
How is fitness like firing a weapon?
MG. You know when you go to a civilian firing range and see somebody with the nicest weapons but still doesn’t know what there doing. They lack a foundation. They haven’t mastered the basics of marksmanship and they wonder why they can’t hit the target.
I do. It’s scary.
MG: You can see the same exact thing walking into any gym and see people with great physiques but no foundation. Your body is your weapon. Just like a rifle, you need to zero it in with the basics to become efficient and effective for other activities. The fundamentals cross over into all different workouts. You can go on to do Crossfit, run Marathons or whatever you’d like. That’s what the Mighty FIT plan is designed to do. It uses eight weeks to build a fitness foundation. It’s your zero.
Ok, how does this plan work for a guy like me with knees that are beat up and a back reading from a decade of body armor? Won’t I just hurt myself?
MG: The plan is designed so that really anyone can do it. You obviously need to listen to your body but none of these movements are inherently dangerous. I’m not asking anyone to do anything outside of a normal physical range of motion or at an explosive speed. In fact, a lot of people hurt themselves during explosive exercises. They think they’re athletic but lack a solid foundation. And what this plan does is prepare people for anything without being potentially dangerous by using a safe rate of perceived exertion.
A safe rate of what?
MG: Haha, the rate of perceived exertion. It’s simple. 80% effort is the goal and the weight is irrelevant. That’s the base element of the Mighty FIT plan. I’m not dictating weights for anyone right now. I tell people the exercise and the number of sets and reps. And you stick to your own weight. So if you feel like shit one day at 80% and it’s 30Lbs less than it was last week. That’s OK. Just do what your body perceives as 80% exertion even if that means that you’re starting off point is just standing up out of a chair, then just do that. There’s really no barrier to entry as long as you’re willing to adjust and don’t feel like you need to be perfect. Just be happy.
But I want to clarify, is happiness the overall goal here or is it something different?
MG: Happiness is the overall goal in so far as this plan will allow you to do whatever you want to make you happy.
That’s a Bali- Eat, Pray, Love answer.
MG: [He Laughs]. If you want to work out like a maniac then these eight weeks will prepare your body to work out like a maniac. If you just want to play with your kids, this will allow you to pick up your two year old son without feeling like you’re going to split your back.
(Michael Gregory training in Bali.)
So as I was reading the plan I know that there’s going to be soreness. Can you kind of quickly walk me through what DOMS is?
MG: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Which is just a fancy way of saying, you’re going to feel the workout the next day. It’s just what happens when people reach a threshold of physical output that they’re not used to. When we work out, we’re literally tearing our muscles apart so that they can be rebuilt into stronger muscle fibers. The body must then recover from the inflammation so all the good blood cells rush to that part of the body which is where the soreness comes from.
Is there anything I can do to prevent the soreness?
MG: The research shows that if you stick to the 80% threshold that I already talked about there shouldn’t be any issues. You should be able to get up and walk around the day afterwards. Usually when people push past that 80% threshold that’s when you get someone walking around like a zombie for a couple days.
If you feel like one of the sessions is particularly hard especially on the legs, then just hop on a stationary bike for 15 and 20 minutes at the end of the workout. An ice bath is another great alternative. But if you’re going to go for the ice bath, wait one or two hours after the workout because what it does is it kills inflammation altogether and inflammation is actually good when we’re trying to build up some muscle so if you kill it right away it has a tendency to stall the gains.
Before we transition off the plan, is there anything else you think people need to know?
MG: Well you know, just take week one as what it is… week one. Do the whole eight weeks before you cast judgment on whether or not you liked it or if it was effective or not.
What do you think is your biggest enemy to happiness? And do you even think like that?
MG: Yeah, I do. I’m obviously living in Bali. So, I have been doing more meditation and self reflection than I ever thought was possible. And honestly my own worst enemy is myself. And I think that’s true for a lot of people. I easily talk myself out of things that I make a commitment towards or that I know are good for me. So finding consistency with myself is one of the hardest challenges and it was something I didn’t realize in the Marine Corps because you kind of don’t have that option in the military. There are constantly other people that you’re responsible for or that are holding you accountable.
And now you’ve built your business, Composure Fitness obviously you’ve got the launch of the Mighty FIT Plan. What does the rest of 2019 look like for you?
MG: Growth. You can only work with so many people at one time. I’m excited about getting my voice out there with good fitness advice and building something more sustainable that reaches more people at once.
I’m excited about starting the 8 week Mighty FIT Plan.
MG: Have fun with it and Semper Fi.
Oh, I will brother. Semper Fi.
Check out Michael Gregory’s blog @ComposureFitness and download the Mighty FIT plan HERE.
For a lot of years I’ve listened to my friends and the people I served with talk about their trips back to Vietnam. It was interesting to hear, but I was never prepared to spend the time or effort to do so myself. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go back.
Then I met Jason in 2015 and we began what has become an interesting and lasting friendship. One of my early questions to him was, “so you make rucksacks, shirts and pants – but what about the most important thing for rucking – the boots?” His answer was, “we’re in the process, how about you getting involved?” That set the hook and the rest is history. Jason established a strong team to design and oversee the making of the boots – Paul (who is the ultimate shoedog), Andy (the marketer and A-1 video guy), Jason himself (a rucker with SF credentials), and to my honor included me (an earlier generation SF guy).
The factory that builds the boots is in Saigon, Vietnam and in February of 2017 Jason asked me if I would accompany the team on its first trip to Vietnam to visit the factory and “wherever else I wanted to go.” I wasn’t sure what to expect and after some thought I accepted his offer. I was very interested in seeing what had happened in Vietnam since my departure 45 years before.
I’ve had a coping mechanism for all of the traumatic events in my past – I simply put them in a large wooden box with iron straps around it in my head, and I take them out at my leisure – to deal with as I see fit. Now I was going to have to face them head on. Luckily, the team I mentioned above was there every step as we moved to several locations I had been to previously, each one triggering memories of a time past. It all began at Tan Son Nhat Airport seeing the customs officials dressed in what I knew as North Vietnamese Army uniforms, an increase in heart rate and minor flashback; the official war museum, where victors always get to tell the story their way; the shoe factory in Long Thanh, where I attended the Recon Team Leaders Course and heard the first shots I had ever heard fired in combat; Ban Me Thuot, my original base camp and a beautiful location in the Central Highlands filled then and now with butterflies; Dalat, a stately resort city for both sides during the war where a helicopter I was in had to make an emergency landing; and lastly the Caravelle Hotel, where I stayed when I went to Saigon to be debriefed after some missions. It had a gorgeous rooftop bar where you could watch mortar attacks on the outskirts of the city while enjoying drinks – a bit surreal. It’s still there by the way.
I was really glad that I hadn’t come alone and the team I was with were all true professionals in their own right – it was, and continues to be, a privilege to be associated with them.
As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip – but what developed was surprising – it helped me honor those who had fallen, closed a loop for me that had been open for years and gave me peace.
One can never be sure about the outcome of anything in this world, but I have come to realize that education, by any means (formal or informal), will always stand you in good stead. So by sharing my humble story perhaps I can help bring a small piece of history into clearer focus.
This article originally appeared on GORUCK. Follow @GORUCK on Twitter.
They volunteered to become Marines 75 years ago to fight a common enemy yet entered a Corps and community divided by segregation and rife with inequalities.
On the morning of Aug. 24, the community and Corps came together as one to honor their legacy and determination during a 45-minute ceremony on hallowed ground dedicated in their honor.
Three living Monford Point Marines and the families of four, along with hundreds of spectators, paid tribute to the more than 20,000 African-American Marines who entered service in 1942 and trained aboard Camp Lejeune on land called Montford Point.
In recognition of the 75th Anniversary of the first “Montford Pointers,” the August 24 gathering was used to present Congressional Gold Medals posthumously to family members of four former Montford Point Marines: Gunnery Sgt. Leroy Lee Sr., Sgt. Virgil W. Johnson, Cpl. Joseph Orthello Johnson, and Pfc. John Thomas Robinson.
Robinson’s son, John Robinson who traveled from his home in Tennessee to attend the August 24 service, was overcome with emotion when he accepted, on behalf of his father, a Congressional Gold Medal and plaque by Brig. Gen. Julian Alford, commanding general of Marine Corps Installations East and Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune.
“He never talked about his service,” Robinson recalled about his father who left home in Michigan and arrived at Montford Point during World War ll where he would fight in Saipan. “He would always say, ‘I crossed the international dateline,” Robinson said with a chuckle.
After the war, Robinson returned to Michigan where he raised a family and supported his household as a welder and a musician.
The Montford Point Marines, “found courage and determination and grit to overcome inequalities. Because of their determination and all that they went through, we all now are able to serve freely,” Alford said speaking near a granite and bronze statue which symbolically portrays a Montford Point Marine scaling an uphill incline with a bayonet affixed to his rifle.
Three Montford Points sat quietly in the front row: Norman Preston, 95, accompanied by his daughter Christine Allen Preston; John L. Spencer, 89, from Jacksonville; and 89-year-old F. M. Hooper, of Wilmington.
Hooper enlisted in 1948 and said the division in Jacksonville was evident.
“We’d walk three miles from base to downtown. My shoes were spit shine like mirrors,” the Brooklyn-raised Marine said. “We passed establishments but weren’t permitted to go inside because we were black. I remember walking across the railroad tracks and the streets were dirt and my shoes were no longer shiny.”
Onslow County Commissioner Chairman Jack Bright spoke from the dais invoking the name and legacy of the late Turner Blount, a Montford Point Marine and later an elected official in Jacksonville.
“He was always upbeat and ready for controversy as a councilman. Turner was a pillar of our community,” Bright said before recognizing Blount’s family seated in the gallery then leading the gathering into a moment of silence. Blount died on July 21 at the age of 92.
The Congressional Gold Medal was first awarded on June 27, 2012 in Washington, DC and presented to retired Marine 1st Sgt. William Jack McDowell on behalf of all Montford Point Marines.
Because the Marine Corps was segregated at the outbreak of World War ll, African-American recruits entering the Marine Corps in 1942 endured boot camp at Montford Point aboard Camp Lejeune rather than Parris Island, SC. After training, the Montford Point Marines were assigned to the Pacific Theater to function in support roles. The Montford Point Marines quickly proved themselves to be as capable as their Caucasian counterparts wearing the same uniform and soon found themselves on the frontlines, spilling their blood and defeating the enemy during fierce combat.
In July 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order No. 9981, negating segregation and in September 1949, Montford Marine Camp was deactivated.
In April 1974, the camp was renamed Camp Johnson in honor of the late Sgt. Maj. Gilbert Hubert “Hashmark” Johnson, who served in the US Army, US Navy, and as a Montford Point Marine.
Despite overcast skies and the threat of rain, the presence of American heroes adorned with Montford Point Marine covers shined over the crowd with admiring spectators posing and snapping pictures with the spry albeit elderly men.
“You are truly part of our greatest generation,” Col. David P. Grant, commanding officer of Marine Corps combat service support schools, Camp Johnson and the ceremony’s keynote speaker said. “They simply wanted to serve their country during the war and they wanted to do it as Marines.”
The Congressional Gold Medal was first awarded on June 27, 2012 in Washington, DC and presented to retired Marine 1st Sgt. William Jack McDowell on behalf of all Montford Point Marines.
By all accounts, Vietnam combat veteran John P. Baca has lived a quiet, humble and selfless life in the decades since he made the split-second decision to jump on an enemy grenade.
The fragmentation grenade landed amidst the soldiers of his recoilless rifle team responding to help an Army platoon facing a nighttime barrage of enemy fire inPhuoc Long province on Feb. 10, 1970. Then-Specialist 4th Class Baca, a 21-year-old drafted the previous year, removed his helmet, covered the grenade and prayed through what he thought was his final moment on Earth.
Baca, seriously wounded by the concussion and shrapnel from the exploding grenade, survived the blast. So did eight fellow soldiers. His actions didn’t go unnoticed. The following year, President Richard Nixon placed the Medal of Honor medal, the nation’s highest award for combat valor, around his neck in the nation’s recognition of the “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.”
Baca’s “gallant action and total disregard for his personal well-being directly saved eight men from certain serious injury or death,” states the award citation.
On Oct. 29, Baca, now 67, stood among a crowd of several hundred attending the first-annual “Ride to Live.”
The American Soldier Network, a Mission Viejo, California-based, all-volunteer non-profit group, and the all-veterans Forgotten Sons Motorcycle Club organized the fundraiser in Oceanside to raise awareness about suicides, post-traumatic stress and struggles of military veterans. About a dozen motorcycle clubs joined in the event outside the Elks Lodge, where scores of motorcycles crowded the parking lot.
“It seems like we flock to our own,” said Dave Francisco, a retired Marine and member of all-veterans Forgotten Sons MC who helped organize the event.
Annie Nelson, ASN’s founder, told the crowd the broader message of the day is about “keeping your battle buddies alive and living for them and fulfilling their bucket list.”
Unbeknownst to Baca, who arrived with friends from San Diego, the organizers were about to fulfill one wish tailored just for him: A fully-loaded, red Toyota Tundra Platinum 4×4 pickup truck.
The reluctant hero, who keeps busy volunteering and working with many veterans’ groups and military-related causes — and once insisted a Habitat for Humanity house meant for him be given to the next person on the list — has been getting around with the help of friends. His need for a set of reliable wheels to attend events, visit injured vets and even deliver local apple pies got the ear of others, including fellow Medal of Honor recipient and Marine vet, Dakota Meyer, who mentioned it to Michael Smith of Toyota USA, himself a former Marine rifleman.
Baca’s story of service and “sacrifice deserves a lifetime of stuff for us to pay him,” said Smith, president of the Toyota Veterans Association. Toyota and San Diego-area dealers joined in providing the truck along with an extended-service contract and $3,500 for gas, he said. The company also presented a large banner honoring Baca and signed by workers at the San Antonio, Texas, plant where the truck was assembled. The Nice Guys of San Diego, a local charity organization, will pay the taxes Baca will owe in receiving the donation, and another donation will cover a year of insurance for him. And Baca also gotdonatoins for his trusty companion and service dog, Jo-Jo, with a year’s worth of dog food and basket of treats, toys, a blanket and seat cover for the truck.
“I no longer have to give you a ride,” a woman in the crowd said as Baca, with the light-blue and starred ribbon and medal around his neck, took hold of the microphone.
Baca, visibly moved, spoke softly as he relayed some moments of his post-war life, reconnecting with a former North Vietnamese soldier and with his estranged daughter and connecting with families through Snowball Express. He is a dedicated volunteer, as reflected by the cap on his head of the nonprofit group that helps the children of the military’s fallen men and women.
Jumping on that grenade was a moment, too. “It was no pain,” he said. “You crossed that veil… I believe we all had that Guardian Angel with us, and mine was holding me that night.” His lieutenant, John Dodson, “wouldn’t let me go to sleep. The angels were ready to take me to heaven and my mom was going to be mad at me for getting myself in this stupid situation,” he said. “But, um, it wasn’t my time.”
Baca returned to Vietnam in 1990 and helped build a village health clinic with former North Vietnamese soldiers, including a former teenage soldier who he had encountered on Christmas Day 1969 and instead let him surrender.
“And I’ll always remember this moment,” Baca said, choking up as he pointed out longtime friends, some who knew him from high school days outside of San Diego. “Thank you so very, very, very much.”
When Baca checked out the truck, the crowd swelled around him. He peered inside and then climbed into the back seat of the quad cab, and Jo-Jo soon followed. “Get in the driver’s seat, John,” insisted a women, who said she first met him when he visited her husband in a local hospital earlier this year. “When another brother’s in need, he’s always there.”
Back in the 1980s, when it still existed, the Soviet Union maintained a number of “friendly” relationships with a variety of African and Asian nations, mostly for the purposes of selling military hardware to counter the West.
One such nation was Libya, which opted to arm and equip its military with a variety of Soviet products, including MiG and Sukhoi fighters for its air force.
At the time, the USSR was also in the process of shopping around its Mil Mi-25 Hind-D, the export variant of the Mi-24 Hind helicopter. The Hind was a fairly unique vehicle at the time, as it was built from the ground up as a heavily-armed attack gunship with the ability to accommodate a maximum of eight fully-armed soldiers in an extremely cramped bay directly behind the cockpit. The Hind could therefore deliver special forces teams to the battlefield and remain in the area of operations for air support, or function solely as a very well-armed gunship, akin to the role the two-seater AH-1 Cobra played for American ground forces during the Vietnam conflict.
In contrast, the U.S. primarily used helicopters like the UH-1 Huey to deliver (and extract) troops from the battlefield, and they were moderately armed at best (in comparison to the Hind) with door-mounted machine guns serving as defensive weaponry more so than in the offensive role.
Now, around the time of the Hind’s introduction into service in the late 70s, the Central Intelligence Agency, along with British intelligence services, sought to learn more about this big Soviet helicopter. Interest heightened when word broke that Ethiopia pressed an export Hind into combat successfully. The Hind then quickly made an appearance in Afghanistan during the Soviet Union’s controversial involvement there, operating to great effect against mujaheddin fighters towards the beginning of the conflict.
Western intelligence needed to get a better look at the Hind and its heavily-armored airframe, especially for the purposes of determining whether or not an American equivalent needed to be designed, built, and fielded as a counter to the Hind’s capabilities.
An opportunity for such a look finally presented itself in the form of the discovery of a Libyan Mi-25 left behind in Chadian territory in 1987.
Historically, Libya and Chad weren’t exactly on the best of terms. Their strained relationship was mostly the result of repeated attempts from Libyan-backed rebel groups to usurp the Chadian government. Constant Libyan attempts to occupy sovereign territory belonging to the Republic of Chad didn’t do much to help their situation either.
When Chadian troops were finally able to fully expel Libyan forces from their borders in 1987, the retreating Libyans abandoned a considerable amount military hardware that would have otherwise bogged down and hindered their egress. Among the treasure trove of armored vehicles, guns, and light artillery stranded in the desert was a Hind-D in relatively good condition, parked on an old airfield ramp at Ouadi Doum.
The CIA, after confirming that such a helicopter did indeed exist at that particular location, quickly set its sights on recovering the helicopter, or at least as much of it as possible, before the Libyans knew about their missing gunship.
All this would have to be done through a covert operation. After negotiating with (and eventually gaining permission from) the Chadian government through diplomatic channels, the CIA enlisted the Department of Defense’s help, and both began planning the extraction of the abandoned helicopter to American-controlled facilities, where it would be taken apart and analyzed in details.
There’s a saying in the military that goes along the lines of: “Gear adrift is a gift”. Christmas was about to come very early for a bunch of CIA analysts and military technical experts.
Mount Hope III was the name bestowed upon the operation. The very first order of business was wrangling up a group of pilots skilled (and crazy) enough to perform the mission to perfection.
The preparation phase, creatively code-named Mount Hope II, began in April of 1987 in New Mexico. The dry, desert conditions would add a layer of realism to the training. CH-47 Chinooks from the 160th’s Echo Company were modified to bear the weight of the Hind-D, judged to be somewhere in the ballpark range of 17,000 to 18,000 pounds.
Chinooks are already able to sling-load different pieces of military equipment, including the Humvee utility vehicle. But there’s a huge difference between a four-wheeled Humvee and an oversized Mil-25. Load-bearing hooks needed to be reinforced, the engines and transmissions needed to be checked and tuned, and the relatively ideal placement of the carcass of the Hind underneath the Chinook needed to be determined.
Practice commenced in dark, low-light conditions. Six large blivets of water weighing roughly the same as the Hind were strapped to the underside of a Chinook. The Night Stalkers flying the Chinook were then supposed to fly to a “Forward Support Base” (or FSB for short) after stopping twice to refuel.
The first dry run went off without a hitch, so the next test was to strap an actual airframe similar to that of the Hind in terms of size and weight and perform the test run once again under the same conditions. The Night Stalkers once again proved themselves and their aircraft and in good time, Mount Hope II was completed, meeting or exceeding the expectations of the CIA and Department of Defense’s overseeing officers.
They were now ready for the real thing.
On May 21, the order to execute Mount Hope III was handed down from the Oval Office, and the Night Stalkers immediately geared up, loading two Chinooks aboard a C-5 Galaxy heavy airlift jet, departing for Germany first, and later on to the Ndjamena airfield in southern Chad.
The Army was to temporarily deploy an ADVON (advanced echelon) scouting and reconnaissance team to the location for around two weeks to keep an eye out for enemy forces, who weren’t all that far away from the airfield.
The French government added their support to the mission by sending over a contingent of soldiers to cover the operation on the ground and a set of Mirage F.1 fighter jets to provide top cover for all aircraft involved. A C-130 Hercules tactical airlifter would land at one of the Forward Arming and Refueling Points (FARPs) to provide fuel for the Chinooks on their way back to the FSB during the mission.
After arriving at Ndjamena on June 10, Night Stalker pilots and crew unloaded their Chinooks from the gargantuan Galaxy.
On June 11th, they proceeded with the mission as they had previously planned. The mission would see the Night Stalkers fly over 500 nautical miles under the cover of darkness, and would then pick up the abandoned Hind right at daybreak. An advance team (Chalk 1) flew to Ouadi Doum to ensure that the site was relatively secured for the incoming Chalk 2 Chinook and to prep the Hind for removal.
As I mentioned earlier, a large element of Libyan military forces were still highly active in the area, even after most had been expelled from Chad’s borders during the previous year’s conflict.
The slightest hint of military action nearby would have likely sparked a firefight and a subsequent international incident if it was discovered that the United States was actively trying to remove Libyan military hardware from the desert, even though the Hind was abandoned in Chadian sovereign territory.
The ADVON team had reported back with a detailed threat analysis, highlighting the fact that the Libyans were definitely still in the region.
Chalk 1, having been inserted at Ouadi Doum, cleared the location and quickly rigged the Hind for extraction while the Chalk 2 Chinook hovered close above, allowing for the team to sling-load the airframe to the waiting helicopter. Chalk 2 then left the area to return to Ndjamena. After covering Chalk 2’s extraction, Chalk 1 loaded up and got the hell out of Dodge.
The Libyans were totally clueless of what was happening just miles away from their positions.
Chalk 2 stopped twice to refuel, at one point on a French Foreign Legion airfield, rendezvousing with the Air Force C-130s at each location.
However, not long after stopping at FARP 2, the mission hit a slight snag in the form of an unanticipated 3000 ft sand storm. The Chinook bearing the weight of the Hind was now only 45 minutes out of home base.
Hauling ass, Chalk 2 reached Ndjamena just ahead of the storm, flying through near-zero visibility and setting down with little time to spare. Waiting a little over 20 minutes in their helicopters for the storm to move onward, the Night Stalkers finally loaded their aircraft and their newly-acquired prize into the Galaxy they arrived in, and within 36 hours were back on American soil.
After 67 hours in-country, the mission was completed; an unmitigated success. Mount Hope III was also the very first major operation where the Night Stalkers used their CH-47s.
Typically, the role of “Doc” in the convoy is as a passenger. While remaining alert and attentive, I also felt that I needed to keep my unit motivated and focused while they did their various jobs.
I took the task very seriously by acting as the Convoy DJ, playing the greatest hits for combat effectiveness!
Whether you cue up your own playlist for leaving the wire or DJ for the entire crew, stepping off is always better with an anthem.
Here are 8 tracks to help “kick the tires and light the fires.”
1. AC/DC — Highway to Hell
No convoy playlist is complete without a track from these rock Gods ripping through the airwaves. AC/DC has plenty of great hits to choose from, however, this song really says exactly how I felt about the roads we traveled in Iraq.
Perhaps it’s a little on the nose, but if you deployed to Iraq this song needs no explanation. All other lyrics aside, you can’t pass on a track with the refrain, “Bombs over Baghdad!” to really pump up that mission essential adrenaline.
You’ve got F/18s launching from an aircraft carrier, Navy SEALs on fast boats, guys jumping out of a helicopter into the surf — now add a wailing guitar riff and a pulsating drum beat and you have the ingredients for a Navy commercial that almost had me signing up for another 10 years.
You’ve also got an epic anthem to keep the troops pumped on those exceptionally long convoys.
(GodsmackVEVO | YouTube)Even if you’re no longer jocking up and taking the wheel of some Mad Max-esque war machine to go spread freedom and democracy around the world, you can still rock out to these amazing songs.
Every convoy needs some musical motivation. Whether you’re taking the kiddos to school, enjoying a leisurely Sunday drive or simply heading into the office for another day of crushing it, cue up this playlist and have an epic journey.